We recently had the honour of opening the Third Session of the Twenty-Seventh Legislature with the reading of our government’s Speech from the Throne.
This is a speech that reflects many of the priorities identified by constituents. It lays out the steps that our government is taking to encourage continued growth while meeting the many challenges that come along with it.
Saskatchewan has grown by more than 100,000 people in the last six years. As a province, we’re on pace to create a record 20,000 jobs in 2013. While this is great news, let’s be clear: it is the hard work of Saskatchewan people, not government, driving this growth.
Certainly, we’ll do our part to keep taxes low and create an environment that encourages investment and grows our tax base. In doing this, the dividends of growth will pay for new hospitals, schools, housing and will help those in need.
The importance of housing cannot be overestimated. Our government has committed $344 million to expand Saskatchewan’s housing supply by 12,600 units as well as repair or update about 24,000 units by the year 2016.
Certainly, Prince Albert continues to benefit from our eight-year housing plan with the most recent renovation seeing the conversion of Pineland Apartments into safer affordable housing units.
Prince Albert is also benefitting in the area of health care. The Pineview Terrace lodge, with an increase in number of beds, is currently being built. At the same time, our government is taking steps to reduce pressure on the long-term care system by launching new home care pilot programs in both Prince Albert and Saskatoon.
We are also amending The Personal Care Homes Act to allow for the public disclosure of inspection reports.
In the months ahead, we will announce details of a program that will enable some seniors with complex issues to receive house calls from physicians, nurse practitioners and other health-care providers.
One of the challenges our province is facing is ensuring there are enough skilled workers for the number of jobs our economy will need to continue to be a national leader.
This is particularly true in larger centres, such as Prince Albert, where there are currently more than 800 job listings posted to SaskJobs.ca. In fact, last month, job postings in P.A. were up more than 117 per cent based on year-over-year data.
Our government is working to address this growing skills gap by working with educational institutions and employers to create 1,000 new training seats in the coming year. Crown Corporations will also expand opportunities for apprentices and fund training seats at SIAST and the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies (SIIT).
Another commitment featured in the throne speech was the completion of the Highway 11 twinning project between Saskatoon and Prince Albert. With a growing number of vehicles driving that stretch of road on a daily basis (as many as 20,000 each day), I am pleased to say the new lanes are officially open.
This newly twinned highway, connecting Regina and Saskatoon to Prince Albert, is now much safer. This will help to improve the flow of goods, services and people to the community of Prince Albert.
Many Northcote constituents have also expressed to me a desire to make it easier to connect with their families in the north. Our government listened. The throne speech promises better connectivity. Through a partnership involving Crowns and the private sector, there will be 4 new cellular sites for the communities of Fond du Lac, Stony Rapids, Black LakeandWollaston Lake. As well, 566 kilometres of new fibre will be placed, bringing high-speed bandwidth to northern regions of the province.
Despite the challenges associated with growth, these are exciting times in Saskatchewan. This is a province with a strong economy and six consecutive balanced budgets.
As we move forward into this legislative session, we are more confident than ever that our resilient, determined, optimistic citizens can meet any challenge as they work to fulfil the enormous potential of this great province.
MLA Victoria Jurgens is the MLA for Prince Albert Northcote. Constituents are always welcome to contact her office by calling 306-922-4220. You may also visit her website at http://mlajurgens.ca or email email@example.com. Her office is located at 5A 598 15th St. E. across from Superstore.